West Side Transportation Cornucopia, part v – Frustrating T

Ottawa’s streets and roads are mostly built on a grid pattern. This results in lots of ” + ” intersections, and also ” T  ” intersections.

From time to time, city engineers tell me there is no such thing as a T intersection, they are all + intersections, legally. This means that the top side of the T in the intersection is also part of the intersection.

This legality is selectively ignored. For example, on numerous main streets and residential streets, where there are no traffic lights or painted crosswalks, people are free to park along the curb that runs across the top of the T in the intersection. This seems a reasonable provision for the convenience of motorists and land users.

But every once in while there comes a planner/engineer/official who is a stickler for the rules rather than logic. These dundridges insist that the top of the T is part of the intersection, resulting in stupidities like this:

It’s a signalized intersection, it is logical to require cars to obey the lights. It is also logical to not permit parking along the top of the T-curb shown above.

But why on earth is there a walk/don’t walk signal for pedestrians in the middle of a continuous sidewalk? (the land use to the right is a private car dealership/parking lot, not a street).

Does any pedestrian obey these signals? Of course not. But in a corporation that values obedience to rules over the ability to think …

I have seen other examples of this dumb planning in the City. Readers no doubt will have their favorite examples to share.

There is  was a similar always-ignored dumb set of signals at the T intersection of Preston and Albert. There was a service lane running north from the intersection, but it wasn’t a road, and was often gated or barricaded shut…

Preston at Albert, looking north, several years ago, in a city not far away …

Nonetheless, when Preston was being rebuilt the city folks installed walk / don’t walk signals for the east-west MUP that runs along Albert. Of course, they were ignored.

Now the north side of the Preston-Albert intersection really is an intersection, albeit a private one with service vehicles accessing the LRT construction site. But after next year, it won’t be a road, again.

Will the City leave / install walk/don’t walk signals for the MUP again? Do they accomplish anything practical?

Shift your focus a bit further west, to the intersection of Merton-Scott. There didn’t used to be road on the north side … it was a plain T shaped intersection. Then it became a +. But next year it will become a T-shaped intersection again, although a service gate will be left as it is one of the places where road vehicles can gain access to the tracks and the track work looks to me to have provision for a permanent road-to-rail transition surface.

I think the City has two ways to design this north side “intersection”. It could leave the curbs in place like now, and install a fence on the north side of the MUP, this forcing pedestrians and cyclists into an “intersection”. It certainly looks to me that the this is what the engineers envision since there are so many concrete curbs and pads already installed.

Or, it could run the curb along Scott, with a curb dip to allow vehicles to approach the gate, just like any private driveway or ramp or commercial property. In this scenario, there would be no need for signals for folks on the MUP.

This is important for several reasons. Installing signals tells us that we design exclusively for motor vehicles first, and peds and cyclists are to be fitted into the resulting environment afterwards. If we design for peds and cyclists first, the value of a continuous MUP would be obvious.

Secondly, the access point to the LRT is at the bottom of hill. In both directions. So cyclists are always picking up downhill momentum approaching the point. Or preparing to pedal uphill. In both directions. Requiring them to stop is frustrating, especially since the access gate will be infrequently used.

If one ignores the signals while on the MUP (who pleads guilty? I do !) and the gate is closed and there are no vehicles present, then one is flaunting the law right in front of motorists dutifully (and necessarily…) stopped at the street intersection. [Yes, there might be a cyclists coming from Merton going to the join the MUP, but provided the MUP is set a certain distance back from the curb then it is not part of the intersection ( look, i’m pleading legalities here!).]

I gather there will be a public meeting in mid December at Tom Brown for residents to give input into the next facelift for Scott Street. In addition to putting cycle tracks on both sides of  Holland at Scott intersection, you can also suggest that the MUP not be cyclis-interruptus at Merton and Preston.

5 thoughts on “West Side Transportation Cornucopia, part v – Frustrating T

  1. It happens in suburbia too. On the west/river side of Riverside Drive at the T with Walkley there is a redundant pedestrian light. In case a car decides to turn right into the Rideau River? Or does it have to do something with the bike path?

  2. Tangentially related is the T at Eccles and Booth. North/South on Booth has a traffic light. Heading West on Eccles there is…. nothing. So cars on Eccles turning left onto Booth have to check out the Booth light to figure out when it is safe to turn without getting t-boned, which takes their focus away from peds.

  3. “Ottawa’s streets and roads are mostly built on a grid pattern. This results in lots of ” + ” intersections, and also ” T ” intersections.”

    At least until you get out into the wooly wilds of post-war suburbia, anyway.

  4. Here’s one where the City would do well to do something:


    Note here that neither Workman nor Kirchoffer have stop or yield signs at this intersection.

    Now imagine that vehicles arrive simultaneously at this intersection: one travelling west on Workman (i.e. towards the perspective from the direction of the aerosol can condo tower, aka Metropole) and another on Kirchoffer (i.e. from the left). Who has right of way? The vehicle on continuous Workman or the one on Kirchoffer?

    Legally, it’s the vehicle on Kirchoffer that has right of way since the HTA assigns right of way to the vehicle to the right at intersections and it only considers intersections in general, making no differentiation between crossroads and T-intersections.

    Workman has another such intersection, with Royal, as does Kirchoffer, with Lochaber.

  5. David … I think Ontario could make much better use of Yield to the Vehicle on the Right rules and with some signage too, to replace ooodles of four way stops and yields. The advantage of the yield to the right is that the one street no longer has the right of way all the time, ie it introduces variability and indecision and thus generates more cautious driving as opposed to driving on autopilot. BTW, I once lived on Kirchoffer.

Thank you for reading. So what do you think?